When David Moyes took over as Manchester United manager in July, the future of Wayne Rooney was immediately one of his most pressing issues.
It all looked set in stone that Rooney would depart when he left pre-season training with an injury before he even kicked a ball and then Chelsea swooped in to lure him to Stamford Bridge. His days as a United player were surely over, or so we thought.
Instead of leaving, David Moyes convinced him to stay and Rooney’s performances (prior to his injury in January) were outstanding but how did Moyes get such a dramatic turnaround in Rooney’s performances so quickly?
“I remember when he came to see me. He came up to my house. I said to him: ‘If you ask me what’s missing – I think you’ve gone a bit soft,’ he told The Guardian.
“I thought he hadn’t been the hard-working, aggressive player he was. But now in games people are saying: ‘Look at the effort he’s putting in.’ It’s his work-rate, not just for himself but for the team. He’s become an all-round team player who is also a technically gifted footballer.
“I said to Wayne that I wanted him to stay. Before I’d actually come in here, I’d met Wayne privately a couple of times, to talk about his situation, to try to understand. So when I got in [on 1 July] I knew where Wayne was.
“The most important thing for Wayne was to show everyone what he really was and I think deep down he knows he didn’t play as well as he could have done at times. I needed to try to get him back to that level. But in the end I just said to him: ‘Wayne, go and get on with it.’ His training was first-class, he came back in great shape, you could really see the hunger back in his eyes again.”
Rooney had curbed his yellow card habit but losing that bit of brash bravado took away from his high intensity, energetic style of play and Moyes has injected it back into him. He has got a nasty streak in him but it is an asset rather than a hindrance. Without it, his whole game was effected.
However, that wasn’t the only issue. Moyes also admitted that Rooney had to improve his fitness levels in order to re-find that sort of intensity, but he did precisely that.
“I said: ‘I’ve watched you, I’ve not been your manager, I just think you had better get back to the old aggressive Wayne Rooney,” Moyes added.
“And I think he thought: ‘Yes, maybe that.’ But what he had to get to was a level of fitness where he was able to produce again. He was brilliant in the way he trained and wasn’t a minute’s problem.”
Fair play to Moyes. Within the space of seven months, he has turned Rooney around from someone who looked like he didn’t give a toss about United into a player who wears his heart on his sleeve once again. Hate him or love him, at his best Rooney is United’s most important player.
Moyes also pointed towards the potential at becoming a Manchester United great as part of the inspiration behind Rooney’s decision to sign a new contract.
When asked if it was part of his thought process, Moyes said: “I think that was behind it.
“To be a legend at Manchester United it is something where you are associated with this club for the rest of your life. The one thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been here is no one wants to leave Manchester United very quickly.
“For Wayne, he’s recognised [how] people like Bobby Charlton, George Best – the way those big stars are seen here. Wayne’s next thing is that we have to keep challenging him to get those goals, make those big targets.”
Now that Rooney has signed a new deal, United can focus on more important things like actually winning games and hopefully Rooney can return to his pre-injury form to become a focal point for the team once again.
Image: Manchester United